The gospel and the transformation of Israel’s story beyond its borders

In my last post, we looked at what the main point of the Old Testament is. A good time was had by all and lives were changed, I’m sure.

Remember, I am not saying that land is “the center” of the Old Testament, but, boy oh boy, it is important. Think about it: where in the Old Testament is Israel not,

  • anticipating receiving their own land,
  • fighting to get it,
  • fighting to keep it,
  • fretting about losing it,
  • or fretting about getting it back in once it was lost?

Land makes the Old Testament story tick.

Israel’s entire existence is predicated upon possession of the land–their inheritance, their gift from God. They were given laws that mark them off as a separate (i.e., “holy”) people from the “nations”–laws of what they can eat and not eat, touch and not touch, what to sacrifice and when, keeping the Sabbath, the feasts, male circumcision, etc..

None of these laws, these distinguishing marks, were given an expiration date. Keeping those laws would insure that they retained possession of the land.

Then there’s the sanctuary–first the tabernacle in the wilderness and then their permanent structure in the land, the temple built by Solomon. This temple was decreed as the only place where God was to be worshiped and where sacrifice to atone for sin could happen.

Temple requires land, hence, the exile posed a huge problem. God’s dwelling place was leveled to the ground and the exiled Jews couldn’t continue as is in some other structure on foreign soil. Rebuilding the temple once the Israelites returned was top priority.

In what sense, without these things, how can we speak of “Israel” at all? This was the dilemma the Israelites first had to deal with while in exile in Babylon: how to be an Israelite when their entire religious system is predicated upon land, temple, and the laws that need to be kept there?

Beginning with the exile, Israelites had to think creatively about how to “be Jewish”–i.e., how to remain tied to a God and a Scripture that assumed as a premise the possession of the land and a functioning religious system therein. It’s a bit reductionistic, but one reason synagogues developed was as a response to that challenge: study of Torah became a means of connecting with God when the land-and-temple-locked means of connection were not available.  But I digress.

Now think about these core elements of Israel’s story and what becomes of them in the New Testament.

  • The continued existence of a people of God on a particular piece of real estate is no longer God’s will. Now God’s people are sent out to the nations.
  • The Gospel actually requires the destruction of the temple. According to the Gospels, it is a sign of a new era dawning.
  • Non-Israelites are now welcomed into the family of the Jewish God without needing to hold to any of the distinguishing marks of Judaism–circumcision, what to eat, what to touch, keeping the Sabbath, and other rituals.

Tie this to the kind of “messiah” Jesus was.

An expectation of a messiah in Jesus’ day–at least for those Jews who thought of such a figure–was sort of a military holy man. As N. T. Wright puts it, “with a sword in one hand and Torah in the other.” His job was to re-establish Jewish independence from Rome in order to bring back the glory days of Israel and usher in a new age, where Israel, in the land, with its temple, and its king on the throne, embodied the very presence of God. Israel would be what it was meant to be: the center of the world.

Jesus, as we all know, had other ideas–a “kingdom of God” that was not marked by military might or political power, but by inner transformation and love and service toward others. And nothing in the Old Testament prepared the Jews for a messiah who would arrive on the scene and, instead of winning, be executed by the very people he was supposed to defeat–and then rise from the dead shortly thereafter.

So, here–finally–is my point for today:

Tying together Israel’s story and the Gospel has been the grand challenge of the church since the very beginning. The two don’t fit together easily, and it takes creative energy to bring them together.

What we see in the New Testament is the early followers of Jesus, like the Gospel writers and Paul, taking up that challenge. They are doing the work of connecting Israel’s story–with it’s focus on land, temple, gentile exclusion, holiness laws, etc–to the Jesus story–where those elements were no longer central, and where Messiah Jesus didn’t meet expectations.

To bring those stories together, the Old Testament could no longer be followed, but had to be transformed beyond its original intentions.

The New Testament writers were assigned this task of explaining how the Gospel, which goes so far beyond the confines of Israel’s story, is still connected to Israel’s story. The center point of that transformation was Jesus.

I don’t want to overstate, but accepting this “hermeneutical challenge” has been the church’s task ever since. When that transformational dimension is retained, I think this is where the hermeneutical challenge is being met well. Whenever the Old Testament is seen as either an independently valid source of theology rather than in need of the transformation modeled by the New Testament, I feel that hermeneutical ball has been dropped.

  • mark

    Hey, re “the land,” I came across a really cool article on a related theme that Pete has also written about: Ethicist examines Old Testament violence. The bottom line: violence is cool with God–or, at least, certain types of violence:

    In the violence committed by Israel against other nations, God is “setting the stage for the future rulership of His King,” said Bethancourt, director of strategic initiatives for the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. The violence serves to preserve the line of the Messiah and to provide a pattern for how God will work in Jesus’ death, Bethancourt told public policy specialists, reporters and other evangelicals July 18.

    Four aspects of God’s character — holiness, justice, love and faithfulness — particularly produce Old Testament violence, Bethancourt said.

    Old Testament violence “is actually, at its root, in a sense, a loving thing to do,” Bethancourt said.

    And that’s just a small sample of the really excellent ethical thinking in the article.

  • ajl

    I think a key is in the progression. As NT Wright has sort of covered, the introduction of God went from Creation -> Covenent -> Law -> Temple. (it is interesting to me that God did not want to dump the entire truck in Genesis 1, but rather slowly revealed more about himself as time went on). Each step, God got more real and personal. The next logical step was for him to step into the story himself – that was Jesus.

    In the gospel of Mark, Mark starts off announcing the Kingdom is here (the intersection of the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth), then establishes that Jesus is greater than the physical world (creation) through his miracles, is greater than the spiritual world through his expelling demons, greater than the law through his remarks about the healing and picking heads of grain on the Sabbath and all, and then greater than the Temple through his comments on tearing it down, etc..

    The parables were well understood by the religious leaders – they were not about the 20th century mega church or the evangelisation of the Congo, but were rather about 1st century Palestine. The owner of the vineyard who went away was God, the workers were the religious leaders left to carry on – what a slap in the face it must have been to them, no wonder they wanted to kill him.

    So, I think that Jesus was a continuation of how God was making himself more known, more present, and more personal. I guess the next book in the series is how God gets even more personal and present by actually allowing us to be part of the story as his temple.

  • mark

    Tying together Israel’s story and the Gospel has been the grand challenge of the church since the very beginning. The two don’t fit together easily, and it takes creative energy to bring them together.

    What we see in the New Testament is the early followers of Jesus, like the Gospel writers and Paul, taking up that challenge. They are doing the work of connecting Israel’s story–with it’s focus on land, temple, gentile exclusion, holiness laws, etc–to the Jesus story–where those elements were no longer central, and where Messiah Jesus didn’t meet expectations.

    To bring those stories together, the Old Testament could no longer be followed, but had to be transformed beyond its original intentions.

    A lot of this depends on what we think “Israel’s story” actually is–for purposes of God’s self revelation in Jesus. From that perspective we should be asking: is “Israel’s story” the standard bookish OT narrative of the land, or is it something rather different? I say, Israel’s story–in history, not just in a book–is that of the gradual recognition of God’s identity, until the stage was prepared for God’s full self revelation in Jesus: as Trinity and Creator. Hey, there’s some really “creative energy.”

    Jesus clearly seems to be saying that “Israel’s story”–for God’s purposes–was something different than what Israel thought it was, but his followers sometimes seem to be wedded to the past: they want to tie it all in to OT “prophecies” in a nice neat bundle as they were brought up to do. Maybe they weren’t totally comfortable with the really radical transformation that was involved with God’s self revelation in Jesus. They wanted to domesticate that self revelation to something they were more comfortable with. How should the Church deal with those portions of the NT?

    As for transforming the OT “beyond its original intentions,” this way of framing the question begs several other questions: at what point in time was there an OT? What did that OT consist of? Can we speak of “original intentions” of the OT as a book, or only of individual books or even sections of individual books?

    Me, I think it makes a lot more sense to be talking about fitting God’s use of Israel as preparation for his self revelation in Jesus and fitting that within a universal history of mankind. All this “land” stuff is tangential to that history, it’s the traditions of men, not God’s revelation.

    Hey, I like those old Baloo cartoons. My favorite, which I can’t locate on the internet, is cited in this article: The Kindest Un-Cut: Feminism, Judaism, and My Son’s Foreskin

    It is, after all, quite perplexing: why would God ask Abraham do such a thing to himself and all the males of his household–especially his son? For years, I had a little cartoon in my study that depicted Abraham, standing alone on top of a mountain, looking up at the sky, forlorn and exasperated. The caption read, “Let me see if I have this right: You want us to cut the ends of our dicks off?!?!”

    Silly author! It’s about the land! Makes perfect sense in that context, right?

    • Andrew Dowling

      mark said “Jesus clearly seems to be saying that “Israel’s story”–for God’s purposes–was something different than what Israel thought it was, but his followers sometimes seem to be wedded to the past: they want to tie it all in to OT “prophecies” in a nice neat bundle.”

      I think this is an intriguing point. I also think we need to remind ourselves that Jesus never came to start a new religion, he came to bring forth new insights and understandings designed to reform and inform the faith he was brought up in. I think talk of “covenants” gets off on the wrong foot because I see them as human attempts and constructs to understand the relationship of God and human. The old covenant was never invalidated insomuch as shifted to a greater understanding of God’s connection to the human race.

      • mark

        Perhaps a lot of this is a matter of words–which can be very unuseful things. For example, we use the word “religion,” which we borrowed from the Romans, but religio was something quite different for the Romans than “religion” is for us. But then, what really does it mean for us? We apply it to a lot of pretty disparate phenomena. How is different, really, from “philosophy” (another not so helpful word). Frank Moore Cross, in From Epic to Canon, has some fascinating things on the relationship between two broad categories of myth (cosmogonic v. theogonic) and relates that to both Semitic and Greek thought–including, specifically, the rise of what we call “philosophy” among the Milesian thinkers in Asia Minor. Mircea Eliade makes the same (or similar) connection. Yet most academics go on making the same sterile, unuseful and ultimately artificial distinctions. We need to get around words sometimes and take a fresh look at the things themselves.

        I think talk of “covenants” gets off on the wrong foot because I see them as human attempts and constructs to understand the relationship of God and human.

        Makes sense to me. What I like to call attempts to “domesticate” God–housebreak Him to our preferred construct.

  • Tony Springer

    Perfect pair of posts Pete. Also interesting that without the physicality of land, temples, and other things, eventually Judaism even transformed the Old Testament in a 3-5 century process from the Mishnah to the Talmuds.

  • mark

    The New Testament writers were assigned this task of explaining how the Gospel, which goes so far beyond the confines of Israel’s story, is still connected to Israel’s story. The center point of that transformation was Jesus.

    I don’t want to overstate, but accepting this “hermeneutical challenge” has been the church’s task ever since. When that transformational dimension is retained, I think this is where the hermeneutical challenge is being met well. Whenever the Old Testament is seen as either an independently valid source of theology rather than in need of the transformation modeled by the New Testament, I feel that hermeneutical ball has been dropped.

    Generally speaking, I’m on board with this, but I think it needs to be spelled out in more detail.

    What does it mean to say that the OT is NOT “an independently valid source of theology”? To me, that should mean that there never was a covenant–not with Abraham, not with Moses, not with David, not with anyone. If there had been a covenant, then that would have to constitute “an independently valid source of theology.” So, no covenant.

    But if there never was a covenant, if that was all “narrative,” then why do we want to explain that “the Gospel, which goes so far beyond the confines of Israel’s story, is still connected to Israel’s story?”

    My answer would be that we want to know whether there is some relevance to the fact that God used Israel as the vehicle through which to stage his self revelation (in Jesus). But, again, if there was no covenant, would this change the situation vis a vis Israel and the nations? Do we have to explain THAT relationship as well as the Jesus/Israel relationship? I say, Yes.

    How has the Church done in this hermeneutical business? Pretty mixed bag, overall. Certainly writers like Matthew seemed concerned to “domesticate” God’s self revelation in Jesus, to make it fit within a context in which the Israelite scriptures WERE still independent sources of theological authority. Paul is different, but because of the form of his thought it can be difficult to realize just how different he was.

    Overall, the Church seems to have adopted–probably in the heat of controversy with Jews–a Jewish model: hey, you got the the word of God written in a bunch of scrolls, well, we got ‘em in codices, only ours are the NEW words of God and yours are the OLD ones!

    I maintain that if the Church is to clean up this hermeneutical, transformational mess in a way that is plausible, then we need a better model or theoretical framework to work with. That superior framework is available, thanks to modern comparative religious and historical research, and it actually works really well with the Pauline narrative.

  • mark

    Sorry, goofed. Didn’t really want to do another comment but didn’t know how to back out.

  • Mike Miller

    Pretty disturbing, especially in combination with Scot McKnight’s contention in “The King Jesus Gospel” that the story of Israel is “completed” in Messiah. Both his and your viewpoint completely invalidate the existence of the Jewish people, including Jewish believers in Jesus. In other words, God dropped His promises to Israel once Jesus’ ministry was done.

    This is actually BEYOND supercessionism. It is destructionism. It is saying that God has reneged on His covenants. What is to stop Him from reneging on the New Covenant?

    How do the Old & New Testaments converge? Simple: The OT was mainly the covenant with Israel (& Abraham & Noah). Then a new covenant through Jesus was created which could be extended to all non-Israelites (Acts 15, Paul’s letters).

    “Tying together Israel’s story and the Gospel” has only been a challenge for the church “from the beginning” because Gentile Christians couldn’t cope with an ongoing covenant between God and Israel.

    • mark

      How do the Old & New Testaments converge? Simple: The OT was mainly the covenant with Israel (& Abraham & Noah).

      Yeah, very simple. And you know that’s all history because … ?

    • http://prodigalthought.net/ Scott Lencke

      Mike -

      This is actually not supercessionism (nor even destructionism), but rather fulfilment Christology. It recognises, as did the first apostles, that Jesus is the completion and fulfilment of Israel. No replacement, but rather fulfilment. They couldn’t fulfil, nor could we. Messiah could. And because Christ is the great Son, all those in him – Jew & Gentile – come into the covenant promises.

  • John Shakespeare

    It may be worth mentioning that another sign of the centrality of the Land was the fact that it was the territorial locus for the observation of Torah as indicated by the repeated injunction that the law applied even to the stranger who is within your gates.

    Or has somebody already said that?

  • Jon G

    Brilliant! You’ve outdone yourself, Pete!

  • labreuer

    To what extent is the ‘land’ of the OT meant to be a metaphor for the culture of the kingdom of heaven? The Israelites were to be ‘set apart’, physically as well as culturally. Now, Christians are meant to be ‘set apart’ in very careful ways: in the world but not of the world. Not all aspects of the American culture are evil, so I don’t really want to say “a [wholly] different culture”. There are, however, definitely things that Christians must do differently, if the kingdom of heaven is to have any meaning. For example:

    “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

    Here is an example of how the culture of the kingdom of heaven must be different from the culture of the world. Another example:

    So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

    Noting that pretty much everything we do is a sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2), this is a key to maintaining unity, and making unity extremely important. Virtually nothing is more important, or as important, as being reconciled with your [Christian] brothers and sisters.

    I almost see the physical and complete cultural separation required of the Israelites as training wheels for the above, partial cultural separation. Several key decisions made by the Israelites after leaving Egypt set the tone for the kinds of lessons they would need to be taught: whining in the desert, wimping out after scouting the land, failing to complete the military conquests, being unable to obey God consistently under the judges, and wanting a king are a few of them. How much can one do with a stubborn and stiff-necked people? Allegedly, we Christians can do better than this. Allegedly. I’m not sure how often we do. :-/

  • Dale

    Currently reading Wright’s Scripture and the Authority of God in which he deals quite a bit with all of this. As far as I understand his explanation, significant portions of the OT (sabbath, temple, etc.) are all anticipatory of Christ. To use the language of Hebrews, copies and shadows. Once Christ, the complete reality, has come there is no further need for the copies and shadows.

    • mark

      Dale, this use of foreshadowing by Wright (drawing, really, on exegetical methods that go as far back as the Fathers) is, IMO, problematic. Of course there’s no doubt that Jesus in his life, words and actions, invokes imagery from the Israelite past. Nevertheless, that’s very different from suggesting that the OT is “anticipatory of Christ.” There were real reasons why Christ crucified was not merely foolishness to the Gentiles but a scandal to the Jews. Those reasons were the same reasons that Paul initially persecuted the Church. The Jews didn’t see Jesus as anticipated by the OT–they saw him as a blasphemer, applying sacred imagery to himself. The difference maker, as Paul came to see, was Christ risen. Christ risen cannot be domesticated, cannot be contained within human traditions and expectations.

  • James

    Interesting that even with return to the land, Israel is still in exile–see lament of Nehemiah. Yet, the promise of land is still out there and no less physical in NT thought. In Christ the whole world comes into focus!

  • Susan_G1

    I believe it is critical to understand the relationship of the OT God:people to the NT God/Jesus:people. It seems particularly painful to Messianic Jews, but it should concern us all. While I like the land aspect, I don’t see it as central as you (Pete) do. Newbie theologian here, please forgive, but this is the (age old? or evangelical?) problem as I see it: God is timeless and unchanging, and His lovingkindness (exemplified in covenants) is also timeless and unchanging, so why do we presume to say the OT laws were wiped out, painting God into a corner in that He can never change His mind? Starting from that assumption, we can reasonably understand His covenants as being completely unchanging, but the way the covenants are to be carried out changed with the arrival (or more correctly the death and resurrection) of Jesus. I know this is painfully obvious to most, but the contention it caused on JC recently is threatening to carry over here. Why are we not bound by ceremonial or Levitical law? Is it that God changed His mind about what was clean or unclean? Not at all! It is that Jesus came and fulfilled the law, such that all God asked of us was done, finally. Is the OT valuable for understanding the nature of God and good and evil? Absolutely. Does the NT invalidate the Jews? No, I cannot see how it does. His burden is lighter for all of us.

    Land is important (as seen in the promise attached to honoring parents) but not as critical as the relationship God wants to have with His people. When in the bible is God: not seeking to be in relationship with His people and giving us the means to do that; not angry that we have fallen out of relationship; not punishing us for that; not forgiving us for that; not making covanants to prove His desire to be in relationship with us; not giving us prophets to remind us of that; not pointing to the final solution, the final (c)hesed, Jesus His son?

  • http://prodigalthought.net/ Scott Lencke

    Pete -

    I know that people like Wright and McKnight regularly show how Israel’s story is connected to the reality of the gospel in the New Testament. And I’m sure you know of Andrew Perriman and his writings. He takes the narrative-historical hermeneutic even further than what one might read in Wright, McKnight and others. His blog is here: http://www.postost.net.

    • mark

      Scott, Perriman’s stuff looks interesting. Here’s his one sentence summary of the “message” of the Bible:

      The long conflict between the one true creator God and the pagan nations, culminating in the victory of Christlike communities over Rome, has fundamentally transformed the nature and status of his “new creation” people in the world.

      While Perriman’s approach is interesting, I submit that Jesus–as presented in both the Gospels and the other NT writings–busts out of that narrative, too.

      • http://prodigalthought.net/ Scott Lencke

        I believe Perriman would say that it is by faith in the faithfulness & victory of Christ that these Christlike communities overcome pagan Rome. He would mainly see narrative and expectation of what we find in NT projecting into the establishment of Christianity in the Roman empire (not in any nice & neat 4-point product, but what happened some 300 years after the NT time would be the victory won).

        However, now it’s time to see such again in a new era, in a post-Christendom Europe (as you can see in his most recent article).

      • labreuer

        Jesus busts out of any finite description. :-)

  • Scott Caulley

    I’m not sure we can single out “Land” from the three promises (or multi-faceted promise) to Abraham. All three main aspects of the Abrahamic promise(s) are transformed by the New Testament writers. Re: “Land”– in the Beatitudes, “the meek shall inherit the land” (LXX Ps 37:11, etc.– Matthew faithfully gives us the wording of the “Septuagint” [Old Greek] here) has already become a metaphor for “God’s messianic blessing” or similar; in Paul the “Great Nation” is understood as all those, both Jew and Gentile, who come to God by faith (not necessarily a supercessionist interpretation); in Acts, “Blessing to the Nations/Gentiles” is portrayed as the messianic event in action, taking the gospel to the rest of the world.

    I disagree with Wright when he characterizes the latter point as “What the Jews had expected God to do at the end of time, Paul realized God has done in the middle of time” (my paraphrase). I think it is more accurate to say that the early Christians understood that these events in fact marked out the beginning of the “end of time” (Peter’s Pentecost Sermon in Acts 2, etc.), the inception of the eschaton. God’s eschatological out-pouring of the Spirit is Paul’s assumption in 1 Corinthians 12-14, and the picture of messianic-era “gifts” in Ephesians 4, for example, based on the (Jewish-influenced [cf. the Targum]) interpretation of Psalm 68.

    Scott Caulley

  • Brian P.

    Not sure where this is going just yet, but this, so far, seems unnaturally divorced from the liturgical narrative, from Eucharistic theology, and from our distinctive Christian eschatological hope.

    Historically, we’re called to worship. Hmm… What is this that I heard? And we sing the Psalms. Hey… I’ve felt and thought that too–the good and the bad, the ups and the downs. And then we listen to what the prophets of old have had to say. OK… They seem to have gotten somethings right; maybe there’s something we can use or shouldn’t throw away there.

    Then we listen to what the Paul and the early church had to say. Wow… That sure is different; there’s a compare and contrast. And then we listen–standing in most rapt attention–to what the Good News chroniclers had to say about Jesus (not perfect in their writings, but they’re the best we’ve got that go written down so we revere them greatly!). We seriously contemplate what they say about what the Nature of God might really be and the what we really might be becoming and what really might be at hand.

    We confess our wrongdoings. We receive of God’s limitless grace in gratitude. We profess our credal loyalties. We receive this Christ–through the power of the Holy Spirit–this broken Body and shed Blood into our lives again (and again), in hopes that we would be made a new and more so become partakers and creators of this new creation. We do this in sacred, tender communal awareness of our commitment to our self-sacrificial Way for each other, and for the world. We believe that the world really works in altruistic ways beyond paradox and full of mystery.

    And then we’re sent out, in a blessing, to be a blessing.

    We’ve been to the altar, that place of Isaac’s binding, but we’ve not been there alone. We’ve been *there* with Christ, the true same Nature of God the Father and we’ve been there by the power of the Holy Spirit. And in sending out into the world be do our small parts in the grand redemption of the Age to Come, we remain not alone; we have a Comforter.

    Pete, when the old story and the new story have been best tied together, it’s not been through uncoupled academic analyses, with modern text-centric hyper-head-twisting evaluation. It’s been when we’ve contemplated how to live–how to worship Jesus’ Abba and how to live (or really live, die, and hopefully live again) as Jesus. It’s been where the OT, in many ways, is merely one of the Way’s primary foils.

    Sure, the land gets redeemed. And in the end, there’s believed to be something akin to a City. But it’s not saved by its tight grasp at all. What you try to hang onto, you can’t keep. And let’s not see land outside creation and new creation and their themes.

    And beyond land, let’s also not forget the Manna and the Feast, nor the Labor and the Shabbat’s rest, nor the sacrifice and the salvation, nor the rebellion and the relation, nor a called people and all. There are other deeply human universals. There needs to be. This isn’t anthropologically or psychologically the world’s greatest religion without reason.

    Sure, it’s not tidy at all. It’s been a 14 billion year story to get to this point. It’s been many, many generations since life first arose 4 billion years ago. And indeed, there’s far, far to go. This is the real Church’s real hermeneutical challenge–to birth the Kingdom of God.

    The present-day Evangelical philosophical and liturgical expressions may well be quite significantly branch for the pruning. Nearly all species that have ever lived have gone extinct. Yet also, every ancestor I’ve ever had has lived to reproduction. Land stands in for existence. And so too does Life.

    Beyond evolution and Adam, there’s much good work you can do Pete. You’re onto something here. Run with it. There’s a new world awaiting to be made.

  • Mark Farmer

    Romans 4:13 is a great condensation of this theme: “The promise to Abraham and to his descendants, that he would inherit the world, didn’t come through the Law but through the righteousness that comes from faith.” (CEB) Instead of inheriting the Land, as in Genesis 12:1, Paul amplifies it to “inherit the World.” Abraham’s physical descendants have been transposed to become those who have a like faith, and the Law as the mark of belonging has been replaced by Faith. So Paul and Jesus both teach that the land has been replaced by the kingdom of God.

  • Seraphim

    I have been immersing myself in the Old Testament (and Old Testament scholarship) for about a year now, and I think you overstate slightly the need for “transformation.” Maybe I’m being picky, but I think a better word is “reconfiguration” and Paul is in good company when he reconfigures Israel’s story in light of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Not only that, but I think he remains ultimately faithful to the central concepts of the Old Testament.

    Consider- if Adam is Israel-in-person, then Paul’s emphasis on Jesus as the New Adam together with his teaching that Jesus is Israel-in-person makes great sense. Not only that, but the great prophecy of Isaiah 40-55 climaxes with the people of Israel returning to Paradise- this is why Isaiah 55:13 alludes to Genesis 3:18. Ezekiel 36-37 depends on Deuteronomy 30′s language of life and death, where Moses says Israel will find “life” at the return from exile when God circumcises her heart. This is why Ezekiel uses the language of resurrection to describe the end of exile, and it’s also why he sees the fulfillment of Sinai as being the restoration of Eden. Undoubtedly there is reconfiguration. But I see that process of reconfiguration as existing together with Paul’s faithfulness to Israel’s story. After all, the Prophets themselves reconfigured Israel’s story in light of developments in that story. That Paul should do the same when Israel’s story comes to it’s climax in Jesus isn’t surprising.

  • Seraphim

    Also- consider the words of Hosea 6:7. Israel recapitulates Adam’s exile through “faithlessness.” Then consider Paul’s theme of the “faithfulness of Jesus the Messiah” being the means through which God’s people return from exile.


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